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Naples Beach Club Hotel

Our lanai (screened in porch, for you northerners) was boring, so I built us a bar. Everything is more exciting when there is a bar nearby. The same principle applies to the Naples Beach Club section of beach. Sun and sand not cutting it? Add a bar. 

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Bonita Nature Place Trail

Difficulty: 

Nestled in the far eastern corner of Bonita Springs, down a road most people will never have a reason to drive by—even if they live in Bonita Springs, lay an other-worldly marvel that looks like it has no place 2 miles away from the heart of downtown Bonita. The newly established trail, Cullum's Trail (named for their biggest advocate) at the Bonita Nature Place looks ancient, if not prehistoric.

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Trip 1: Canoe the Imperial River

It turns out there's only so much you can do to a travel website without actually going places. We had to start somewhere, and fast. We had just paddled an amazing trail down the upper stretches of the Imperial River in Bonita Springs just to explore the area. A few days later, I planned to revisit with a different goal in mind: capture video and pictures that highlight the beauty of the river. A GoPro was acquired through a buddy, we planned to use our cell phone cameras for stills (in the meantime), and I chose a Saturday morning for the short trip. 

The only problem with Saturday morning trips is that they are preceded by Friday nights. Friday nights aren't typically a huge setback, but the Friday night in question also happened to be the night of the Naples Hammerhead Rugby Club banquet. Having recently capped off another successful season with a run to the National Rugby Sweet 16, both Ryans were in attendance until well after the clock looped back around into single digits. Saturday morning turned in to Saturday afternoon, and Saturday afternoon turned in to Saturday evening. It's important at this juncture to point out that this happened in the summer, and if you wait until 5pm to try any outdoor activity any day during the summer, there is an overwhelming likelihood of that activity getting rained out (unless the activity is playing in the rain, then you're good). True to form, as soon as we loaded the canoe into the truck, it started raining. We studied the radar harder than ABC 7 Meteorologist Allison Rae, and concluded that we would be able to ride out the light rain with some fishing at the dam. This critical moment was also the official start of The Two Ryans.

In the drizzle, we stopped at the Imperial River Boat Ramp to net some bait. Procuring a dozen mollies (can you even use mollies as bait?), we headed east to the Bonita Grand Dam. Upon arriving at the dam, we drove directly past it. It wasn't because we couldn't see it because it was raining so hard (it was), but rather because we needed to go to Publix to buy notebooks. We bought notebooks, Gatorade, and returned in the driving rain to the dam to ride it out. The notebooks were put to good use and we started planning, brainstorming, itemizing, and jazzercising while we waited for the rain to stop.

Finally, the rain did stop. We got out our fishing poles knowing that we shouldn't start our paddle yet because there may be some more light rain coming. A well placed bolt of lightning and clap of thunder chased us back into the truck rather quickly. This was followed by another 20 minutes of torrential rains. Realizing that Trip 1: Canoeing the Imperial River would have to be postponed, we drove back to my house to do some more nerdy web and nature stuff. We planned to give it another go Sunday morning bright and early. 

Sunday morning at 7:30 came, and surely we would be able to avoid getting wet this early in the morning. Enter: tropical storm/depression/disturbance/pain in the ass "Chantal" (when did we start giving storms stripper names?). This messy system threw rain at us ALL DAY Sunday. Ryan Y had to return to work Monday morning, and it was starting to feel like we would never get this project started. With the rain messing up Day 1 production, Ryan Y returned home to actually be productive in other aspects of his life. 

Just when the day seemed like a certain bust, a single ray of sunshine pierced the clouds, entered the room where we were cooped up all day casting a spotlight directly over the GoPro camera. Angels sang and played harps (at least that's how I remember it), and I scooped up my phone. I was too excited for complete sentences. The message "Sunshine, go time" traveled the unnecessarily far 500 miles to chime Ryan Y's phone a mere 10 miles away, and the mission was back on. Ryan was en route and at the house by 6pm, the canoe was already loaded up, the cameras charged, all with at least 2 hours of daylight left. Trip #1: Canoe Imperial River was officially underway.

We dropped off one car down river (off Murat Drive, article forthcoming) and took the truck up to the Bonita Springs Weir. The water was higher than the previous day, which is nearly 8ft higher than it is during the dry season. Taking the necessary pictures at the Bonita Dam. We launched into the rapidly moving current with it necessary to dodge a few fishing lines of local anglers also capitalizing on the break in the weather. After the first bridge, we were on our way. Ryan Y took the paddle for the first leg while I filmed in front. A continuous 10 minute video of the ride to the Bonita River Place dock will soon be available at the Imperial River page. 

Stopping at the nature place to swap places and snap some stills, I took over the paddle for the middle section of the ride. This part featured submerged bald cypress trees impossible placed in the middle of the river, water oaks, pond apples, and more unbelievable scenery than most people will see in years of living in Florida. Check out the amazing pictures and video from this section on the Imperial River. The river opened up and from there it was less than a mile to the rendezvous point. Ryan Y took over the paddling again, while I focused on ridiculous B-roll.  We also produced several excellent tag lines for the site. Look for them on DFR media near you!

As I write, I'm thinking about the hours I'll soon spend poring over video footage and pics, editing, and writing content for the Imperial River page. I only hope that in doing so I can capture and communicate one tenth of the beauty of this paddling trail. 

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